Escovedo lets loose with "Real Animal"

Legendary rocker releases stellar CD

ROCK

Escovedo's at his best

"Real Animal"

Alejandro Escovedo. Back Porch/Manhattan. 13 tracks.

Grade: A

He's hardly a household name, except in very cool households. Yet Alejandro Escovedo sure ought to be.

He's been around since the 1970s, playing in bands like the Nuns, Rank and File and True Believers, and "Real Animal" is the latest in a long-running line of his solo albums dating to 1992.

It's a gorgeous, evocative and autobiographical work, richly detailing the captivating life and times of the songwriter, who in the 1990s was famously named "Artist of the Decade" by alt-country mag/bible No Depression — two years before the decade had even ended.

Escovedo co-wrote all 13 songs (with Chuck Prophet), and the album was produced by Tony Visconti, best known for his work with T. Rex and David Bowie.

"Real Animal" offers a wild mix of styles, from raw-edged fury (the song "Real As an Animal" is an homage to Iggy Pop and other rock 'n' roll animals); to harmonica-wailin' blues ("People (We're Only Gonna Live So Long)"); chamber pop beauties about his youth in California ("Swallows of San Juan"); to flat-out punk ("Nuns Song").

The writing is passionate, the singing is pure and melodic and whether he's tearin' it up or working with strings, the effect is consistently mesmerizing.

The opening "Always a Friend" sounds slightly like the latter day-more expansive offerings of the E Street Band. Indeed, there's a great clip you can find on YouTube of Escovedo playing the song with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

Rock historians will likely be intrigued by "Chelsea," which details Escovedo's days living at New York City's fabled Chelsea Hotel at the same time as Sex Pistols bass player Sid Vicious and girlfriend Nancy Spungen, who died there in 1978.

At 57, Escovedo has lived a lot of lives and each one is fascinating. It was time for an autobiography and that he turned it into an album is our good fortune.

— Kevin O'Hare, Newhouse News Service

SOUL

David's sound feels familiar

"Acey Duecy"

Anthony David. Universal Republic/Soulbird Music. 11 tracks.

Grade: B

Forget all of that business about first impressions.

This second introduction to Atlanta singer-songwriter Anthony David is as impressive as the first, well, two.

You see, while "Acey Duecy" is his major label debut, it is also a compilation of David's first two independent releases on Atlanta imprint Brash music.

Sometimes this disc's strengths aren't necessarily about David — like the fine musicianship on "Smoke One"; underappreciated Atlanta firebrand Keisha Jackson's part on "Lady"; and the guitar playing of fellow local talent Billy Odum on the live version of "Spittin' Game."

But David's wonderfully bluesy-soul vocals, strong writing and a lovely assist from the Atlanta Grammy winner for whom he used to sing background — India Arie— all make clear why "Words" has become a burgeoning hit single two years after its initial release. And Soulbird Music founder Arie felt like we should make his reacquaintance.

— Sonia Murray

Anthony David will appear at a CD release party/performance Saturday, June 28 at Center Stage.

ALSO OUT

• Gainesville, Fla., ska punkers Less Than Jake give a little hometown shout-out with the new "GNV FLA."

• The new self-titled album from Hercules and the Love Affair just might make disco cool again.

• Texas roots-rock outfit Reckless Kelly returns with "Bulletproof."

• Lock up your daughters because Mötley Crüe is back with the questionably titled "Saints of Los Angeles."

G. Love and Special Sauce keep the laid back rock going with "Superhero Brother."

• "Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust" is the latest from atmospheric Icelandic quartet Sigur Rós.

• Oscar-winning rap combo Three 6 Mafia hits stores with "Last 2 Walk." The duo will make an in-store appearance at North Georgia Compact Disc (509 Beaver Ruin Road, Norcross. 770 416-6575) on June 28 .

• Florida rock quintet Shinedown explores "The Sound of Madness" with producer Rob Cavallo.

• Former Sarah MacLachlan sideman Luke Doucet follows his acclaimed 2005 album "Broken (and other rogue states)" with "Blood's Too Rich."

Ry Cooder releases "I, Flathead: The Songs of Kash Buk and the Klowns," the final album of his "California Trilogy."

• The suave, smooth R&B of Dwele is showcased on "Sketches of a Man."

• South Carolina singer-songwriter Edwin McCain's "Nobody's Fault But Mine" is a collection of cover versions, most of classic Southern soul tunes.

• Kentucky siblings the Watson Twins, major contributors to Rilo Kiley vocalist Jenny Lewis's solo album "Rabbit Fur Coat," make their own full-length debut with "Fire Songs."

• The new album from Christian alt-rockers Kutless is "To Know That You're Alive."

COMING NEXT TUESDAY

• New albums from Alkaline Trio, Earlimart, Los Lonely Boys, Vanessa Hudgens and Night Ranger. Also, John Mayer will release another live album.

— Shane Harrison

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